Credit Card Review: The Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard

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Official application link: Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard with a 60,000-mile sign-up bonus.

Among the cards that don’t get a lot of attention is the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering the airline’s limited route network and that it isn’t part of any of the major airline alliances. However, Hawaiian does offer some solid partner award redemption opportunities, and the cobranded card is currently offering an elevated welcome bonus. So, let’s take a closer look at everything the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard has to offer and see whether it’s worth picking up.

Who Is This Card For?

As you might guess, the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard is for Hawaiian Airlines flyers. All of the card’s major perks are specific to the airline. The easiest uses of HawaiianMiles are for flights on Hawaiian itself. The card has a reasonable $99 annual fee that’s waived the first year and its welcome bonus has a relatively low spending requirement, so it’s also good for those looking to earn a substantial amount of miles without breaking the bank.

Welcome Bonus

For a limited time, the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard is offering an elevated welcome bonus of 60,000 bonus HawaiianMiles after you spend $2,000 on the card in the first 90 days. That’s worth $540 based on our valuations. While that might not sound that exciting at first, the spending requirement is also a lot lower than on most travel rewards cards. Plus, you’ll get a 50% discount toward one published full coach round-trip fare for a companion.

Earning

The earning structure on the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard is better than most cobranded airline cards. The card offers 3 miles per dollar on Hawaiian Airlines purchases, whereas most of its counterparts offer just 2 miles per dollar on airline spending. While not industry-leading, it also offers an above-average return on the top everyday spending categories – 2 miles per dollar on gas, dining and grocery stores and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. Plus, card holders can earn bonus miles at thousands of shops and restaurants that are a part of the HawaiianMiles Marketplace.

Redeeming

The most obvious use of HawaiianMiles is for Hawaiian Airlines award flights. Although the program technically publishes an award chart, each award type provides a range of prices, as opposed to fixed redemption rates, meaning that you’ll typically get consistent value from your miles. To give you a general idea, first-class awards between Hawaii and the West Coast start at 40,000 miles one way, but can go up to 80,000 miles. As a card holder, you’ll also get automatic discounts on coach awards across the airline’s entire route network.

Although Hawaiian Airlines isn’t a part of any of the three major airline alliances, you can redeem your miles on partners such as JetBlue, Japan Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Korean Air. Unlike Hawaiian-operated flights, partner awards do have fixed redemption rates – with the exception of JetBlue – and in many cases, they’ll provide you with the most value for your miles.

That 60,000-mile welcome bonus? You might be able to book a one-way first-class flight between Hawaii and the continental US on Hawaiian. Or, you could book a round-trip business-class flight within Asia on Korean Air. Just note that partner awards are not available through Hawaiian’s website so your best bet is to use ExpertFlyer to search for award availability and then call to book.

Like with other mileage programs, HawaiianMiles can be redeemed for hotel stays, hotel and car rental gift certificates, grocery, shopping, and dining gift cards, magazines and newspapers. Miles can also be transferred to Hilton Honors, the Caesars Total Rewards loyalty program and at Points.com. However, these types of redemptions generally offer a poor value proposition compared to using them for award flights, so we recommend avoiding them.

Perks

All of the card’s perks revolve around flying Hawaiian Airlines. The card offers a unique feature that lets you transfer miles between accounts, but lacks some run-of-the-mill perks that most other cobranded airline cards offer, such as priority check-in and boarding. The card also doesn’t come with and travel protections like trip delay/cancellation insurance or baggage delay/lost baggage insurance.

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  • $100 Companion Discount – Receive $100 off one companion ticket for round-trip travel between Hawaii and the Mainland on Hawaiian Airlines after each account anniversary.
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  • Free Checked Bag – The primary card holders get one free checked bag on Hawaiian Airlines-operated flights between North America and Hawaii and between neighbor islands when booking flights directly from the airline using the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard. Elite members receive this benefit in addition to their usual baggage allowance.
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  • Share Miles – Primary card holders can send and receive HawaiianMiles from friends and family without a fee, up to 10 times per calendar year.
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  • Inflight Purchase Credit for Elites – Pualani elite platinum and gold members are eligible to receive an inflight purchase credit of $10 a day, up to $100 a year. It can be use to cover onboard entertainment, beverages and premium meals.
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  • No Foreign Transaction Fees – Use the card anywhere around the globe without incurring extra charges.

Which Cards Compete With the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard?

Since Hawaiian Airlines is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards and a 3:1 transfer partner of Marriott Bonvoy, there are plenty of other credit cards that can help you boost your balance of HawaiianMiles while enjoying a different selection of perks.

The closest comparison to the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard in Amex’s lineup is the American Express® Gold Card. The card comes out ahead on bonus categories, offering 3x points on all flights purchased directly from airlines and 4x points at restaurants and US supermarkets (on the first $25,000 spent each year at supermarkets). It does have a higher annual fee of $250 a year (see rates & fees), but it comes with a number of travel perks that help recoup that, including a $100 annual airline fee credit that you can use toward incidental airline fees such as baggage fees and a $120 annual dining credit (allotted in $10 increments each month) that can be used at various dining partners. The American Express Gold Card is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months, which is less than the Hawaiian Airlines card, but those points also offer a lot more flexibility when it comes time to redeem.

Bottom Line

The Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard definitely isn’t for everyone. However, if you can get value of the card’s free checked bag benefit and the partner award possibilities then it can make a solid case for itself.

The limited-time 60,000-mile welcome bonus won’t last forever, so if you’re thinking of applying, you’ll want to do so sooner rather than later.

For rates & fees of the Amex Gold card, please click here.

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